Tainted

This story is part of the Fiction for Charity project. The picture I used was sent by Patrick Hogan, whom I thank for his donation to the cause. The photo was really an innocuous sort of thing - just a woman crossing a city street. One thing led to another and I ended up with this.

Of all the winters he hated - and that would be all 25 that he had experienced thus far - this one was by far the worst. The cold bit at his lips and clawed at his ears. The sky was a constant gray; some days it would pelt the city with hard daggers of sleet and some days it would ease up a little and just throw a blanket of snow over everything.

It wasn’t just the weather, of course. It was the way Brad’s life had just seemed to follow the course of the season and now, standing frozen in the small alcove outside the bank, ice pellets pummeling his head and dark, dirty snow seeping into his sneakers, the weather and life had finally merged into one hellish storm.

He knew where his life was headed, but that was not the worst of it. The worst part was that he accepted it. After Merri kicked him out, he became consumed by a monster cloud of negativity that shadowed every move he made, every thought he had. It was a fast moving cloud; within days he had become someone else. And he let it happen. He stopped caring, stopped loving, stopped working, showering, sleeping. Brad was frightened at first by how much he liked being this way, but soon he began to think of himself as his own god. He was creating a completely new person from the scraps that remained after the Merri disaster. It was only a matter of fate that those scraps were nothing more than tainted meat. A foundation of poison helped him create the man who was now standing against the bank, plotting how to make everyone else as miserable as him.


Brad had seven minutes to wait until the bank opened and he could go in, close out his account and greedily take from the teller the last $20.45 he had to his name. And then what? A beer? A haircut? A taxi cab to Merri’s apartment where he would beg and plead and end up being ridiculed by Merri’s sisters? Obviously, he still had a few specks of the old Brad left. He made a mental note to churn up enough hate today to wash those last remnants away.

Thinking of Merri made his stomach heave a little bit and he could taste the beginning of another round of vomit forming in his throat. He swallowed it back down, gagged a little and promised himself he would not cry. But, oh hell, why not? Who was going to notice he was crying when his face was so crusted over with snow and sleet? He fought with the old Brad for control of his emotions. Stop caring, he said out loud. Stop. Find your hate, Brad. Find the monster>. He knew that letting the monster transform him completely was the only way to keep himself from knocking on Merri’s door, pleading for another chance.

His stomach did the lurch thing again and this time he didn’t hold back. He turned away from the street, towards the bank wall and let it all out. His retching sounds could not be heard over the cacophony of cars slushing through the snow and people screaming for help....

Screaming for help?

He turned back toward the street, swiping an elastic string of bile from his chin. There, right in the middle of the intersection, a young woman lay trapped under the tire of a Mercedes. There were several people trying to lift the car off the ground but their feet kept slipping on the ice covered street and they couldn’t get the traction needed. The woman was awake, conscious, totally aware that she was slowly bleeding to death on a pile of dog-piss snow on Christmas day in New York City. Brad’s stomach did it’s little tumble again, though with a different kind of feeling. Not a Merri-left-me lurch, but a I’m-watching-someone-die tumble. Brad’s only reaction to his turning stomach was to think “I bet she has a family, a life, people who love her and buy her fuzzy slippers for her birthday and take her out to dinner when she gets a promotion.” He stood, transfixed, and eyed the woman’s red hair, splayed against the gray slush, her deep blue parka, the watch dangling from un-gloved right wrist. “I bet she has a lover who makes sure she comes first. I bet she has a cat who sleeps between her legs at night. I bet her kisses taste like mint gum. I bet she calls her mother every day. I bet she has a good address.”

He sniffed a little, aware that he was crying and that his tears had nothing, yet everything, to do with Merri. Merri, who had a good address, while he lingered in his dank hovel. Merri, whose kisses tasted like stale coffee and cigarettes.. Merri, who Brad wished was under that car instead.

Brad walked toward the Mercedes, eyes fixed on the woman’s hair. He waited until he was within two feet of her and then he watched the woman’s mouth, just watched her as she tried to relieve her agony with moans. He wondered what she sounded like in bed. He wondered if anyone would know if he just slipped the watch off the woman’s pale wrist. He wondered if she would scream if Brad tried to kiss her right now, right as she lay bleeding, dying and writhing. He wondered how he would feel if he placed a 2 ton weight on Merri’s chest and watched her die.

An ambulance came wailing down the street, plowing right through the driving snow and sleet. It hit Brad with the force of thunder and when he finally came down, finally landed right in front of the bank with a bang and a thud, he knew he was going to die and the papers would print his name and address and refer to him as a dirty, creepy man who tried to kiss a dying woman who was trapped under a Mercedes and Merri would live the rest of her days horrified, embarrassed and guilty. This all made Brad smile and he died right there in front of the bank, covered in blood and dirty snow, with a smirk on his face.

Transformation complete.

All the text herein is copyright © 2004 Michele Catalano. All rights reserved.


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